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Chinese carriers, Ethiopian Airlines ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets

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Beijing/Addis Ababa, March 11 (IANS) The Chinese government and Ethi­o­pia on Monday grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets, a day after an Ethiopian Airlines plane of the same model crashed shortly after take-off, killing all 157 people on board.

The Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302, on its way to the Kenyan capital Nairobi from Addis Ababa, crashed six minutes after take-off on Sunday, prompting the carrier to ground the rest of its fleet of the jets. It ploughed into a field near Tulu Fara village outside the town of Bishoftu, some 60 km southeast of the Ethiopian capital.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued a notice on Monday morning ordering domestic airlines to suspend the commercial operations of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft before 6 p.m., CNN reported.

In October 2018, another aircraft of the same model being operated by Lion Air had crashed in Indonesia 12 minutes after take-off due to failures in the automatic system, killing 189 people on board.

The CAAC said the decision was taken owing to security concerns after two other newly-delivered Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes had crashed similarly in the take-off phase.

The regulator said the grounding of the planes was "in line with our principle of zero tolerance for safety hazards and strict control of safety risks".

The CAAC said it would be contacting US aviation authorities and Boeing before restoring flights of the aircraft.

The move affected hundreds of flights on Monday in China, where 13 carriers operate more than 90 of the Boeing 737 Max 8 jets, according to the Chinese media.

Ethio­pian Airlines in a statement said that the cause of the accident was still not known but the decision to suspend flying such aircraft was taken as a precautionary measure.

"Following the tragic accident… Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet effective March 10, 2019 until further notice," the statement said.

"Although we don’t know the cause of the accident, we had to decide to ground the particular fleet as extra safety precaution," said the largest carrier in Africa.

Cayman Islands carriers announced a similar decision. Cayman Airways, which also flies the Boeing 737 Max 8 craft, announced it would ground the planes while the investigation into the crash was ongoing.

According to a report in the Guardian, over 300 Boeing 737-MAX planes are in operation and over 5,000 have been ordered worldwide since 2017. Several other carriers including Fiji Airways, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Australia and Korean Air told the daily that they did not intend to ground their Boeing aircraft.

According to the Ethio­pian Airlines, the pilot made a distress call saying he was having "difficulties" and got clearance to return, moments before losing contact with the control tower.

He was identified as Yared Getachew, 28, of Addis Ababa. He had 8,000 hours of flight time and was the youngest pilot in Ethio­pian Airlines history to captain a Boeing 737.


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